Curriculums, classes change in response to attacks

Mindy Hagen

Whether it’s in history, political science or religion, incorporating current events into classroom discussions has long been a staple of compelling courses. In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, many Northwestern faculty members have altered their curriculums in order to bring lessons from the tragedy directly to their students.

Because classes began after the attacks, NU professors couldn’t hold class forums in which students could voice their immediate reactions to the events. They also didn’t have time to completely revamp their class plans, as textbooks had already been ordered.

But that didn’t stop some professors from integrating breaking news into their courses.

Prof. Lee Huebner kicked off his speechwriting class by showing President George W. Bush’s address to Congress in response to the attacks. In addition to playing the entire speech, Huebner gave each student a copy of the text.

Huebner said students were “thoughtful and insightful” during the ensuing discussion.

“It was a way to connect this speechwriting course with the real world,” Huebner said. “I’m sure the unfolding scene will remain in our thoughts and comments. The events are obviously on everyone’s mind.”

Speechwriting student Elizabeth Whittaker said she thinks the subject matter was appropriate.

“It was very fitting to discuss how to use sensitive words at a time like this,” said Whittaker, an Education junior. “Bush encouraged us to get on with our lives but we can’t forget about this situation.”

At the same time, Whittaker said the attacks should only be brought up when dictated by the class or assignment.

“We already had a good two weeks to be showered with information before the school year started,” she said. “Its important we not over-emphasize the event in class, especially since we’ve already had the opportunity to discuss it in the two weeks before school.”

The attack and possible international repercussions also perked the interest of some freshmen students who registered in the fall after the tragedy.

Sociology lecturer Timothy Nelson, who teaches a course in American society, said a student e-mailed him saying she wanted to register for the class specifically because of the events of Sept. 11.

Nelson said the course reading material was set before the attack, but he plans to integrate more discussions into lecture time.

“We will be trying to talk about what makes us unique as a country,” Nelson said. “We won’t be changing the syllabus, but instead giving more thought to lectures.”

Nelson and other professors were forced to keep their previous class plans because they had already ordered course textbooks. Stuart Lundquist, textbook manager for Student Book Exchange, 1737 Sherman Ave., said he didn’t receive any orders for different textbooks between Sept. 11 and the start of class.

Lundquist said a certain amount of “dead time” has to occur between an event and when a book can be published about it. A scholarly work about the impact of the terrorist attack could take “a substantial amount” of time, he said.

“Now, the most productive reading on the issues for professors to use would come from current magazines and newspapers,” Lundquist said. “Those would be the most interesting resources to study from.”

Some faculty members, like International Relations Asst. Prof. Ian Hurd, have decided to continue watching news unfold and raise discussions on a day-to-day basis.

“Anybody who thinks about international relations will obviously have the events of Sept. 11 in the front of their mind,” Hurd said. “We are staying informed, and we will continue to incorporate events into our discussions as they unfold.”